‘Ah!’ groaned Mrs Pulchop, in a squeaky voice, sipping her hot water; ’you don’t know, my dear, what it is to be aworrited by your liver—tortures and inquisitions ain’t in it, my love.’
Kitty said she was very sorry, and asked her if nothing would relieve her sufferings, but Mrs Pulchop shook her head triumphantly.
‘My sweet young thing,’ said the patient, with great gusto, ’I’ve tried everything under the sun to make it right, but they ain’t no good; it’s always expanding and a contracting of itself unbeknown to me, and throwing the bile into the stomach, which ain’t its proper place.’
‘It does sound rather nasty,’ assented Kitty; ’and Topsy seems to be ill, too.’
‘Toothache,’ growled Topsy, who had a deep, bass voice, and being modelled on the canine lines of her late lamented father, the growl suited her admirably. ’I had two out last week, and now this one’s started.’
‘Try a roasted fig, Topsy dear,’ suggested her mother, who, now, having finished her hot water, looked longingly at the kettle for more.
‘Toothache,’ growled Topsy, in reply, ‘not gumboil;’ the remedy suggested by Mrs Pulchop being for the latter of these ills.
‘You are quite well, at any rate,’ said Kitty to Anna, cheerfully.
Anna, however, declined to be considered in good health. ’I fancy my back is going to ache,’ she said, darkly placing her hand in the small of it. ’I’ll have to put a linseed poultice on it tonight, to draw the cold out.’
Then she groaned dismally, and her mother and sister, hearing the familiar sound, also groaned, so there was quite a chorus, and Kitty felt inclined to groan also, out of sympathy.
‘M. Vandeloup is coming to dinner tonight,’ she said, timidly, to Mrs Pulchop.
‘And a wonder it is, my sweet angel,’ said that lady, indignantly, rising and glancing at the pretty girl, now so pale and sad-looking, ’it’s once in a blue moon as he comes ’ome, a—leaving you to mope at home like a broken-hearted kitten in a coal box. Ah, if he only had a liver, that would teach him manners.’
Groans of assent from the Misses Pulchops, who both had livers and were always fighting with them.
‘And what, my neglected cherub,’ asked Mrs Pulchop, going to a looking-glass which always hung in the kitchen, for the three to examine their tongues in, ‘what shall I give you for dinner?’
Kitty suggested a fowl, macaroni cheese, and fruit for dessert, which bill of fare had such an effect on the family that they all groaned in unison.
‘Macaroni cheese,’ growled Topsy, speaking from the very depth of the cork soles she wore to keep her feet dry; ’there’s nothing more bilious. I couldn’t look at it.’
‘Ah,’ observed Mrs Pulchop, ’you’re only a weak gal, and men is that obstinate they’d swaller bricks like ostriges sooner nor give in as it hurt ’em. You shall ‘ave a nice dinner, Mrs Vanloops, tho’ I can’t deny but what it ull be bilious.’